Paraphrasing, Summarising, and Quoting (or how to incorporate the ideas of others in your writing)

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You will often need to include information from experts in your field in your written work. This may be to explain a point or to support claims you make. There are three ways to include this information in your writing: through paraphrase, summary and quotation.

What are paraphrase, summary and quotation?

Paraphrasing

This is where you take an idea – perhaps a sentence or two from a source such as a journal article – and include it in your writing. The important thing here is that you change the way the idea is expressed. This usually involves changing both the grammar and the vocabulary while keeping the meaning of the original. You must cite a paraphrase to acknowledge that it is not your idea but someone else’s

Example: Imagine you have found the sentence below in a book and you want to use the idea in your writing:

For many, it has taken far too long for the migrant crisis to top the agenda of the international community.

One way to paraphrase it might be:

World leaders have been slow to prioritise the current crisis in migration, a great number would say.

This involves changing some of the phrases used (for example, migrant crisis becomes crisis in migration); changing the order of ideas and changing the grammar (the original and the paraphrase have different grammatical subjects).

Summarising

Summarising involves producing a version of a text which is shorter than the original and written in your own words as far as possible. For example, you might decide you need to tell your reader about some of the ideas from a paragraph. To do this you decide which ideas you do not need and leave them out. The ones that remain, you then paraphrase. Again you must cite a summary of someone else’s writing.

Quoting

This is reporting what is said in a text exactly as it was written. Short quotations should have and open quotation mark at the beginning [‘] and an end quotation mark at the end [’]. If you want to leave out some words, for example if they are not needed to make the point you want to make with the quotation, You must provide a citation with the quotation.

How do you decide which to use?

We only quote when it is important to use the same words as the original. For example, when giving a writer’s definition of a term we might quote that because often every word is important in a definition. Usually, there is no special reason to quote and so you should paraphrase if the original is short or summarise if the original is long enough to contain irrelevant information

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